“Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992) dir. James Foley, scr. David Mamet


F–k “The Exorcist”! THIS is the scariest film of all time … because it involves real life at its worst … whatever good is in it is eroding away bit by bit. Based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, this is a film about men who have had varying degrees of success in their life, but are now not doing so great. They’re a millimeter away from losing their livelihood … and they’re resorting to desperate means to hold onto what little they have. This movie disturbed me as recent college graduate in 1992 … it scares me even more 20+ years later.

This scene … the most famous in the film … involves a sales leader browbeating and emasculating the desperate men who are their weakest. This is darkly funny on one level … horrendously sad and depressing on another. This is the dark side of the American Dream … the side which says if you fail, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough, you didn’t want it badly enough, because … you weren’t man enough.

Aside from his genius portrayal of CEO Jack Donaghy on the comedy TV classic “30 Rock,” this is Alec Baldwin’s greatest performance. The other performances by Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, and Kevin Spacey are all top-notch, as well. This is not safe for work by any means. This is verbal brutality at its most heinous. A-B-C. Always be closing … ALWAYS BE CLOSING!

“At Close Range” (1986) dir. James Foley


Another sadly neglected/forgotten film from the 1980s, “At Close Range” is based on the true story of the Pennsylvania crime family led by Bruce Johnston, Sr. Christopher Walken is in his scariest role ever as the crime boss Brad Whitewood, Sr., a role turned down by Robert DeNiro because he thought it was “too dark” (which is really saying something). Walken’s character may be one of the most evil I’ve ever seen in a film … a cold and ruthless mammal (I can’t bring myself to call him a man, let alone human) who has absolutely no soul. Sean Penn plays his son Brad Jr., a teenager going nowhere who becomes part of his father’s gang. Penn’s character later finds himself in way too deep and learns way too fast that his father’s “love” is expressed solely for the purpose of disarming someone and keeping them under their control. The acting by all parties (especially Walken, Penn, and Mary Stuart Masterson as Penn’s girlfriend) is outstanding. With the possible exception of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” this is director Foley’s finest film. A great film, but terribly disturbing and sad.